Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sunday - Farewell to our Tour ... We are in the Army Now!

1st Day Sunday- We're in the Army Now!

Farewell Transfer… We took a shuttle to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and met up with Sar-El group at 9:00 am

There were about 60 volunteers and we were sorted and sent to three different army bases in the South. We were assigned to the one in the middle south.

Every group was assigned to a "madricha". Ours was a very cute little French girl, Salome, all of 22 - and her 19 year old assistant, Anna. There were 13 of us - 5 women and 8 men.

We boarded a very comfortable army bus and enjoyed the relaxing hour and a half ride to our base.

The women and men have separate sleeping quarters and we were assigned to our rooms. Gail had two room mates and Bernie had three.

The rooms were very spartan, with four bunk beds, but very clean. Each bunk had two blankets, a sheet, pillow and a towel. We were told this was a "luxurious" base as all the rest didn't even have pillows or sheets & towels. We unpacked our belonging and stored them in a tiny locker and hung our jackets on nails on the side.

After a wonderful welcome lunch of chicken, potatoes veggies and salads, we headed out to the square to await instructions.

The uniforms arrived, the men had first pick. Bernie looked like an army "fashionista" with two shirts, one short sleeved and one long, nice pants, and a "dog-tag". My uniform will arrive tomorrow.

We all went for a long nap and leisure time until dinner at 6:30 pm. Dinner was light, just hard boiled eggs, salads, cheese, bread and yogurt. The main meal of the day on the army base is lunch.

After dinner we had "an activity" at 7 pm in our "club-house". We each received a Sar-el t-shirt, hat, sleeping mask and earplugs. Then our "Madricha" explained the rules of the base and our work schedule. It was close to 9:00 by the time finished and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Well, I guess "we're in the army now!"

2nd Day - Monday:

Up at 7:30 am and breakfast at 8:00 am.

Flag raising is at 8:30 every morning in the parade square. We tucked in our army shirts, formed nice even rows, raised the flag, and sang "Hatikvah".

Today was very special ... we got our Sar-El "Israeli Army ribbons" put on our shoulder epaulets by our "madricha's". Everyone clapped and cheered as each person was inducted.

Now on to work! We toured the facilty by foot. We are stationed on a supply base. As we went by each "hangar" two of us were assigned a job and went in to work. Bernie and I were assigned to sorting tools, wrenches and ratchets. We had sort, clean and bag them.

This first day was to just sort about 30 different shapes and sizes from a giant bin. We really needed our bi-focals to make sure we didn't mess up!


We had a great coffee break and danced with some civilian women who were also working with us. They had a radio that played Israeli music. What a great way to relax for few minutes!

We went back to the mess hall for a large pasta lunch, nap and back to work. We finished the day at 4:00 pm. Then had a shower, dinner and an "activity" in our clubhouse. We told a bit ourselves to each other, and found out about the lives of our "madricha's". Then we learned about the different colour berets of the Israeli army. Then off to bed!

2nd Day - Tuesday:

A repeat of yesterday ... but this time we "cleaned" our sorted tools with oil and a rag. Very time consuming, as we had to clean every crevice. Pretty rewarding after they are all sorted, shiny & clean!

Activity tonite was a "bingo game" after we learned Hebrew numbers and some Hebrew. It was a lot fun!

We also found out that the "girls" has arranged for us to go off-base for dinner & a mivie at a near-by mall. Really looking forward to that!

3rd Day - Wednesday:

Finally, we bagged and labelled our tools ... it took all day, but we are done!

We had a fire drill today and had to go to the bomb shelter, which was a round re-inforced concrete "tube" behind the warehouse. We were there for 15 minutes until they sounded the "all clear".

We went off base, and enjoyed pizza and falafel for dinner. Six of us watched "Beauty & the Beast" ... in English with Hebrew subtitles.

A great evening! We get to go to Tel Aviv tomorrow morning for a long weekend tomorrow and return Sunday.

4th Day - Thursday ... Tel Aviv:

Bernie found us a B&B until Sunday am. We walked around King George Street, saw the shuks, shops, stopped for a falafel and saw the Dizengof mall. We scouted out a kosher place to pick up dinner for Shabbat tomorrow.


5th Day - Friday:

Great B&B. Had an expresso in our room and out for many walks and to get dinner for tonite! We found a wonderful Kosher Persian food stall in the mall and got enough food for all of Shabbat.

Surrounded by daycares. Its a main stream business in Israel. Our B&B guy Sammy, owns two. He offered us to come in the afternoon to read a story in English to his older group of five year olds when we stay with him at his place at the end of our trip. His son is in that English class.

What a wonderful place he found us for the weekend, just four blocks from his place right in the middle of all the action!

Itzhak Perlman is conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with guest violinist Hya Gringolts. They are playing a matinee today just down the street at The Charles Bronfman Concert Hall. Bernie surprized me with tickets to a repeat performance after Shabbat ... what a special treat!

Shabbat Shalom :)

Gail & Bernie


Friday Night Dinner

Finally some time to rest!  We enjoyed a nice Friday night dinner (courtesy of lunch) at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea buffet ... we packed some wonderful roasted chicken which we nick-named "dead-sea-chicken" in our lunch bag. Our hotel had a Shabbat elevator (which stopped on every floor and took ten minutes to reach the lobby) and a beautiful place to light Shabbat candles on the main floor.

Shabbat Morning

Bernie found a shul and was invited to do the haftorah with over 300 people in attendance. Such a thrill and honour!

We walked around for a bit in the afternoon and toured the King David hotel. On the patio, we got a good look at the Dung gate on the Western Wall.

The gate was very close even to the Dan Panorama - our hotel.

After Shabbat, we packed up for the Sar-El for the next morning and went to bed early for our 6:00 am wake-up call.


Qumran Caves National Park

We learned about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the people who wrote them as we explored the Qumran National Park. t
The table-like structures are said to have been used to write the scrolls, the ritual baths and the caves are where the scrolls were discovered in 1947.

Masada Mountain & Cable Car

We rode up the cable car that held 80 people, to the top of Masada and explored what remains of King Herod’s palace. We viewed history as we walked through the preserved baths, cisterns and barracks. It was here that leader Eleazer Ben Yair kept the Roman Legion’s siege at bay for three years.


Dead Sea Float & Spa Lunch

Yam Hamelach, literally meaning “Sea of Salt,” is 417 meters below sea level; the lowest place on earth. Its salty water contains unique healing properties, which, combined with the nutrient-filled mud found on its shores, creates one luxurious and healthy day.

We enjoyed a huge buffet lunch at the Crowne Plaza Resort & Spa and then enjoyed the "float".


Bar Mitzvahs at  (The Western Wall)

We had the opportunity to enjoy three bar mitzvah celebrations at a special section of the wall for families. It was so much fun to hear the musicians and singing as the families escorted the bar mitzvah boy under the canopy.

Israel Museum & Dead Sea Scrolls

This museum is the largest cultural institution in Israel and one of the world’s leading art and archaeology museums. Here you will find the oldest existing biblical manuscripts in the world, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in the Shrine of the Book.

Mount Herzl National Cemetery

A burial place for prominent Zionist figures such as Theodore Herzl, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, here you will also find an expansive military cemetery; one quite full for a country so young. The loss of the soldiers who fought for the land of Israel is palpable.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

In 1963, the Yad Vashem Museum was established as the world center for Holocaust research, education and commemoration. With survivor testimonies, powerful displays, and artifacts, this museum embodies one crucial message: Never again.

1967 Six Day War – Ammunition Hill

On the night of June 6th, 1967, a four hour battle took place here at Ammunition Hill in which 36 men lost their lives. You’ll view the trenches and reconstructed bunker that serves as a museum and tells the story of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem.


After an early breakfast at 6:30 am, at the Dan Panorama in Jerusalem, we piled on to the bus at 7:50 for a very long. exciting day walking day.

King David’s Tomb

Our first stop was here. Located on Mount Zion in a 1,000-year-old building, people come here to pay tribute to the great King David, who is most notably famous for composing the Book of Psalms and establishing a unified capital for Israel. A medieval tradition places his tomb at this location. So many stairs to climb!


The Kotel (The Western Wall)

Here stands the remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple. People come from all over the world to pray at the wall and feel its strong presence. Write down your greatest wish and place it in the wall, following the tradition of thousands of years and millions of Jews.

It's a feeling like you have never experienced, just standing in the square. When we actually got to the wall, tears of joy sprung to my eyes as I placed my note in a crevice and prayed. One of our tour friends took a picture of Bernie.

Old City Jewish Quarter

And we climbed more stairs!!! Oh my ... at least 20 floors ... to get to the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter remains one of the single most-visited spots in all of Israel. Nestled within one square kilometer of land lay millennia of ancient history. The Old City dates back to the 8th century BCE and is home to numerous historical landmarks.

Did you know that Bernie is building me an elevator so I don't have to climb these darn stairs again??? Yeah Bernie!!! & Thanks.



The Four Sephardic Synagogues

During the War of Independence, residents of the Jewish Quarter found cover here for two continuous weeks. After the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, these four synagogues were rehabilitated, and today they are frequented by the residents of the Jewish Quarter.


The FAKE Eliyahoo's chair ...

Bernie sitting in the REAL Eliyahoo's chair ...
(who actually appeared as the "tenth" for a minyan over a hundred years ago ... and he was seen sitting in this chair.)


Jerusalem Archaeological Park

Experience Second Temple-era Jerusalem on the eve of its destruction by the Romans. See a virtual reconstruction of the Temple, stroll the walkways of the surrounding city and see the remnants of the staircase that led to the Temple Mount and the Holy of Holies.

Western Wall Tunnels Tour

These underground tunnels contain remnants of entire rooms from the Second Temple period. At Warren’s Gate, you’ll stand just a few feet away from where the Holy Ark stood, and feel the yearning of the Jewish people for the Temple for thousands of years.

Tower of David Museum

The Tower of David served a military purpose until 1967, when it was re-captured by Israel and turned into a museum of Jerusalem’s history. Now you can view the most thorough collection of Jerusalem artifacts, from the Canaanite period 4,000 years ago up to today.